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  Attorney General Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia- Trump Campaign...  CSPAN  March 2, 2017 4:08pm-4:24pm EST

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unless the evidence stinks. you can go ahead and put that down. does that sound like a responsive t.s.a. to the o.s.c.? ms. gowadia: no, sir, it does not. mr. chaffetz: did you fire him? ms. gowadia: no, sir. mr. chaffetz: are you going to fire him? ms. gowadia: no, sir. mr. chaffetz: i would. i would fire that guy. until you clean house with the legal folks in your agency, you're going to have a lot of problems. that is not the kind of attitude, we're going to go to war with the o.s.c. you're familiar with the law work the code that comes out of the o.p.m. regulations, you can tell me it's all rosy but when your chief legal counsel who has been there since the inception says there's no legal obligation, she is not a fight -- she is not abide big the law. ms. gowadia: mr. chaffetz please let me leave you with no doubt to the matter that is unacceptable. mr. chaffetz: what are you going
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to do about it? ms. gowadia: i believe he has been disciplined. >> we are going to leave you now and take you life to the -- live to the department of justice for a statement by u.s. attorney general jeff sessions. mr. sessions: thank you for being with me, he's my chief of staff and jody has been almost 20 years in the department of justice. let me share a few thoughts. first, about the comments that i made to the committee that have been said to be incorrect and false. let me be clear. i never had meetings with russian operatives or russian intermediaries about the trump campaign. and the idea that i was part of a, quote, continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government is totally false.
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that is the question that senator franken asked me at the hearing and that's what got my attention is he noted it was the first, just breaking news. it got my attention and that is the question i responded to. i did not respond by referring to the two meet, one very brief after a speech, and one with two of my senior staff -- staffers, professional staffers with the russian ambassador in washington. where no such things were discussed. in my reply to the question -- my replay to the question of senator franken was honest and correct as i understood it at the time. i appreciate that some have taken the view that this was a false comment. that is not my intent. that is not correct. i will write the judiciary
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committee soon, today or tomorrow, to explain this testimony for the record. secondly. t my confirmation hearing, i promised that i would do this. if a specific matter arose where i believe my impartiality might reasonably be questioned, i would consult with the department ethics officials regarding the most appropriate way to proceed, close quote. that's what i told them at the confirmation hearing. my -- i have been here just three weeks today. a lot has been happening in this three week period. i wish i'd had more of my staff on board but we're still waiting for confirmation for them. much has been done, much needs to be done, and -- but i did and have done as i promised. i have met with senior officials
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shortly after arriving here. we evaluated the rules of ethics and recusal. i have considered the issues at stake. in fact, on monday of this week, we set a meeting with an eye to a final decision on this question. and on monday we set that meeting today. so this was a day that we planned to have a final discussion about handling. asked for their candid and honest opinion about what i should do about investigations, certain investigations. and my staff recommended recusal. they said that since i had involvement with the campaign, i should not involved in any campaign investigation. i have studied the rules and considered their comments and evaluations. i believe those recommendations are right an just.
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therefore i have recused myself in the matter that deal -- in the matters that deal with the trump campaign. that language of that recusal is in the press release that we will give to you. i've said this, quote, i have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigation of any matter relating in any way to the campaign for president of the united states. i went on to say this announcement should not be interpreted as confirmation of e existence of any investigation or suggestive of the scope of any such investigation. because we in the department of justice resist condition firming or denying the very existence of investigations. so in the end, i have followed the right procedure just as i promised the committee i would.
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just as i believe any good attorney general should do. and a proper decision, i believe, has been reached. so i thank you for the opportunity to make those comments and would be pleased to take a few questions. ok. >> just to clear up any confusion over this, could you just explain a little bit about the september 8 meeting, who on your staff was there and what was discussed with the russian ambassador? mr. sessions: the russian ambassador apparently sent a staffer to my office, i did not see him, and asked for a meeting as so many of the ambassadors were doing, and we set up a time, as we did, as we normally did, and we met with him. two of my senior staffers were there and maybe a younger staffer too and they both
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retired army colonels, not politicians, we listened to the ambassador and -- to what his concerns might be. it was just normal things such as i started off by saying, i don't remember a lot of it but i do remember saying i had gone to russia with a church group in 1991 and he said he was not a believer himself but he was glad to have church people come there. indeed i thought he was pretty typeof an old style soviet ambassador. so we talked a little bit about terrorism, as i recall. somehow the subject of the ukraine came up. i had had the ukrainian ambassador in my office the day before and to listen to him, nothing that russia -- that russia had done nothing that was
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wrong in any area and everybody else was wrong with regards to the ukraine. it got to be a little bit of a testy conversation at that point. it wrapped up, he said something about inviting me to have lunch, i did not accept that. and that never occurred. >> [inaudible] mr. sessions: i don't recall. most of these ambassadors are pretty gossipy, an this was in the campaign season. but i don't recall any specific olitical discussion. >> do you recall meeting with am bass -- with the ambassador any other time? mr. sessions: i recall -- i don't recall having met him. it's possible, i'm on armed services committee, that's possible, but i don't recall having met him. >> on the question of sanctions, why did he seek a meeting with
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you, did he consider you a representative? mr. sessions: i think ambassadors are always out trying to find out things and advance their agenda. most of the country -- country's atsdz -- countries' am bass doctors i've met with, they play out their case. poland lays out its case, ukraine, hungary, japan, canada, i met with all those ambassadors over the years and so i think that's why. >> did you consult with the white house about your decision and just to follow on the last question, with hindsight do you believe that this is a coincidence that the russians asked you for a meeting? or do you believe you were targeted because it came at the height of russia's interference and at the same time, they hinted that trump was giving an interview saying he didn't believe there was anything to do to be concerned.
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mr. sessions: i don't recall and don't have a sense of any connection whatsoever about that. i'm not sure i even knew what was -- when we set up the meeting, what was going to be going on in the world at the time. i can't speak for what the russian ambassador may have had in his mind. >> have you met with any other russian officials or folks connected to the russian government since you endorsed donald trump? mr. sessions: i don't believe. so you know, we meet a lot of eople. >> those two meetings you discussed with the ambassador. mr. sessions sp: i don't believe. so >> the white house press secretary and the president said you should not recuse yourself from the investigation. mr. sessions: i did share with white house counsel, or my staff has, that i intend to recuse myself.
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but i feel like, because they didn't -- they don't know the rules, the eth exs rules, most people don't, and -- but when you evaluate the rules, i feel like that i should not be involved in investigating a campaign i had a role in. one more question and we'll wrap this up. >> two questions, if i may, one, you were already considering recusal before today is that correct and secondly when you answered senator franken's question were you just not thinking of the meeting with the russian ambassador or did you not consider it relevant? mr. sessions: i would -- i was taken aback a little bit about this brand new information, this allegation that a surrogate and i have been called a surrogate for donald trump had been meeting continuously with russian officials and that's what i -- what struck me very
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hard. that's what i focused my answer on. with retrospect, i should have slowed down and said, but i did meet one russian official, a couple of times. that would be the ambassador. thank you all. take care. >> the attorney general calling a fairly quickly pulled together news conference to announce he'll be recusing himself from investigation into russian hacking of u.s. elections. a reporter from politico tweeting, during the statement, attorney general state, i never had meetings with russian operatives or russian intermediaries about the trump campaign. the senate minority leader chuck schumer earlier today said the attorney general should resign over his alleged communications with russia. senator schumer said he's the chief law enforcement officer in resign. and should have
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here's his comments. >> why does he have to resign? mr. schumer: the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the land. already his integrity and independence has been questioned. the main point i am making here is we need an investigation to get to the bottom of this. better for the country if he resigns. but let's get a real investigation going. is there something inappropriate about the senator meeting with the russian ambassador? mr. schumer: there's nothing inappropriate with the senator meeting with the russian ambassador. there's something very inappropriate to dramatically mislead congress. he said he didn't remember afterwards. but it was in the record for weeks afterward and you can be sure he was thoroughly briefed for this hearing. it was obvious, with everything that was swirling about, that
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this question would come up. it's not a question of -- you wonder about -- i didn't remember. es, in the back. reporter: following up on that. this question that senator franken has, senator sessions at the time, has been replayed over and over on cable channels. was it not nebulous enough -- was it crystal clear that the intention was, did you ever meet with russia? mr. schumer: look. there is enough doubt about whether senator sessions told the truth at his hearing to have an investigation of it. and the standard for remaining attorney general, and certainly for conducting an investigation is not just did you break the law. you have to be above eproach. >> that was the minority leader of the senate from earlier
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today. the attorney general of the u.s., jeff sessions, announcing he will be recusing himself from investigation into russian hacking. before his announcement, house speaker pall ryan held a briefing with reporters as well where he talked about the attorney general he said he doesn't think he should resign but added that mr. sessions should only have to recuse himself if the investigation involves him directly. here are the house speaker's comments. reporter: did the attorney general mislead the committee and should he recuse himself. mr. ryan: i would refer to his senate judiciary committee, i checked the transcript, i can't speak to what the judiciary transcript is, i haven't checked that. should he recuse himself? i think he answered that question this morning which is if he himself is a subject of an investigation of course he would. but if he's not, i don't see any purpose or reason for doing this. let's take a step back for a second here.
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